The eyewitness accounts of the Gospel testify that Christ the Lord attracted attention, at times positive and negative, as a result of what he said and what he did. Christ the Lord spoke and acted in the very person of God, and the natural desire for God that God imparts to every human soul makes the presence of the Lord Jesus absolutely magnetic.
People are drawn to Christ. Christ evokes and provokes curiosity. This attractive quality did not diminish, even in his suffering and death- for on the cross, Christ attracted all humanity to himself, drawing both living and dead into an encounter with his divine life.
This attractive quality of Christ the Lord is one of his gifts to his Church. Those Christians, who in Spirit and Truth, speak and act in his name will attract attention, both positive and negative, just as Christ did.
So it is for Peter and John (in today’s scripture from Acts of the Apostles), having given themselves over to Christ in willingness to love what Christ loves and serve what Christ serves, people are drawn to them- crowds of people. People are curious about what Peter and John are saying and doing. Christ is speaking and acting through his disciples and Christ, living, active, present in his Church is attractive. Disciples, who in imitation of the saints, seek to lead people to Christ, will serve as routes of access to him- giving to others what they have themselves received from the Lord.
Note how Peter responds to the crowds that he and John had attracted not by calling attention to himself, but by directing people’s attention to Christ.
The Church will grow inasmuch as its members are faithful to the Lord Jesus and seek to lead people to him. The Church does not grow because the faithful support institutions that provide faith based services. The Church grows because its members are evidently faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus who offer to others the gifts they have received. The end towards which all the endeavors of the Church are directed are to create bridges over which people might travel as they journey towards a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thus, faithful disciples are always willing to ask themselves- am I a bridge or a block to Christ? Are our various endeavors or institutions a route of access to the Lord or a locked door? Are the various activities and concerns that so pre-occupy our attention and consume our resources really about the Lord Jesus and leading people to him? Or are we merely entertaining ourselves and using religion to support our own ideologies and causes?
If this is the case, our efforts will not attract, or even repel people, what they will inspire is indifference.
We cannot lead people to Christ unless we really and truly know him and serve him. If the Church seems to us to be faltering and failing in her mission, ceasing to attract, then we should first look to ourselves and in this examination of conscience ask if we are standing in Christ’s way.
Those who know Christ love what he loves and serve what he serves and this is evident in what they say and what they do. Those who know Christ also are interested in him, in who he is, they know and can recall the great story of his revelation (as St. Peter does in today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles) and spend time in his presence in prayer and worship. Those churches (parishes) that can represent Christ to others as a living, divine person who they know and love and serve will endure, flourish and grow. These churches (parishes) become attractive, as God in Christ is attractive, because they represent him.
Those who know and serve Christ also know the real Christ from the many counterfeit and simulations of Christ that human culture will inevitably produce. The real Christ is a real person, a divine person, who accepted a human nature and lived a real, human life. This means that God in Christ revealed himself in the flesh, in a body- he lived, suffered, died and rose from the dead in a body.
This is the point of today’s eyewitness account of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus- that God in Christ reveals himself in the flesh, in his body. His resurrection is in the flesh, in his body- not as some will assert as an idea or a feeling or as a symbol.
The testimony of the Apostles is very clear, those who would assert that God in Christ did not reveal himself in the flesh, live, suffer, die and rise to new life in the flesh, in his body- do not really and truly know him.